CARE's partners halt aid distribution in Eastern Ghouta due to heavy air strikes

Amman, 20 February 2018 – Syrian humanitarian organisations have halted the delivery of life-saving aid to thousands of people in besieged Eastern Ghouta, after the heavy bombardment of the area near Damascus this week, which has pushed civilians including aid workers into underground shelters, announced CARE today.

Hanaa*, who works in Eastern Ghouta with a local organisation supported by CARE, said:

The situation in Eastern Ghouta is more critical than ever. Despite their resilience for years, people are giving up hope for survival. Unlike previous airstrikes, destruction has reached every area this time. There is no place for people to go – no shelter, no safety.

Another Syrian organisation active in the area stated that the situation was the worst since the beginning of the siege.

Saleh*, who works for the organisation, said:

Shelling and airstrikes are targeting heavily populated areas. All vital buildings are under attack, including bakeries, markets, medical facilities and other civilian infrastructures.

A third organisation reported that a medical worker had lost his life in an airstrike that hit the hospital it operates in the area.

More than 100 civilians, including children, were reportedly killed in air raids, rocket strikes and shelling on Monday, in what was the heaviest one-day death toll in Eastern Ghouta. On Tuesday, the toll had risen to nearly 200, according to media reports.

The area, home to nearly 400,000 people who have been besieged since 2012 by government forces, has recently seen a surge in deadly airstrikes, and a tightening of the siege. Schools have been closed for two months now.

Wouter Schaap, CARE’s country director for Syria, said:

The extreme escalation in violence has made it impossible for humanitarian agencies to reach the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians trapped in Eastern Ghouta. Civilians are deprived of food and medicine and are facing hunger and death. If a ceasefire is not reached now, we will be facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

CARE and the its partners in Syria call for an immediate ceasefire and echo the United Nations’ call for a 30-day humanitarian truce and for lifting the siege, to allow humanitarian agencies to deliver critical aid to hundreds of thousands of people and evacuate civilians in need of urgent medical care.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.

Notes to editors:
•       For CARE’s February 2018 statement on increased hostilities in Idlib and Ghouta, see here.
•       All Syrian civil society organisations mentioned in this press release are supported by CARE, and were interviewed in the third week of February 2018. 
•       No aid convoys reached Eastern Ghouta in December and January. One convoy was allowed to the town of Nashabieh on 14 February, delivering life-saving food, health and nutrition assistance to 7,200 people. According to the United Nations, malnutrition rates have reached unprecedented levels, with 11.9 per cent of children under five years old acutely malnourished – the highest rate recorded in Syria since the beginning of the crisis.

For interviews, please contact: Joelle Bassoul, Communications Director for the Syria Crisis, Joelle.bassoul@care.org, +961-79177440

About CARE:
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty. CARE has more than seven decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Last year, CARE worked in 94 countries to reach 80 million people, including more than 11 million through emergency response and humanitarian aid. Learn more at www.care.org  

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